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Adventure Time puts a cartoon spin on a weird classic (review)

What you won’t like

Weird design decisions
While Hey Ice King! makes smart design decisions that improve on Zelda II’s gameplay (like more lenient random encounters and a better save/restart system), it has a few flaws of its own.

The most notable example is how ducking down (to punch or slide) conflicts with the ability to drop through thin floors. You need to crouch to attack low-lying enemies, but if you’re not quick about it, you’ll accidentally fall to your death. The developers could have easily adhered to more traditional, foolproof controls for passing through raised platforms: the jump and down buttons pressed together.

Sliding, which kicks nearby enemies, is also problematic. Finn has a tendency to jump in the air instead of keeping close to the ground, and when you’re in hostile territory, you can accidentally bump up into foes and take damage rather than destroy them. Fair? No. Can you adapt to it with practice? Yes.

Adventure Time ice

Leveling up with … treasure chests?
Hey Ice King! divides your experience into stats you can upgrade: Hearts, Attack, and Speed, similar to Zelda II. The problem is, fighting enemies has nothing to do with gaining levels — exploration does. Level-ups are found in select treasure chests, and they could be anywhere.

You might not find them all, and it’s a mechanic that doesn’t make much sense considering the game’s point of reference – later Zelda games, maybe, but not Zelda II, where you have to grind to get stronger. Since the game gives you plenty of enemies to fight, offering experience points for kills would be a better incentive to get players to bother with them.

Adventure Time enemies

Backtracking on foot
You’ll memorize the map well over the course of the game. Much of your time goes to backtracking and determining your next objective, which involves revisiting old side-scrolling segments.

This is particularly tedious before you find Finn’s sword and the first level-up chest since you’re weak and unprotected. And no, your sword isn’t just lying ashore on a beach somewhere or hidden in the heart of a forest like in the Zelda games. That would be too easy. The real location is even more embarrassing.

Later on, you do gain abilities that provide shortcuts (like Boat Jake, who takes you across water), but you’ll still be taking the long way around most of the time, especially when you’re not sure where to go. The game is largely a fetch quest. You might take Raggedy Princess’s sock to another character, Treetrunks, or turn in evidence to upstanding citizens.

Adventure Time Finn

A short run and bizarre ending
Hey Ice King! is short; you can finish it in about six to seven hours. A new-game-plus option opens up after you do, offering greater challenge, but it’s not nearly enough content as fans might like.

That’s another issue worth noting. WayForward made the game for viewers of the show, and as authentic as it is, I can’t imagine unfamiliar players jumping into this and understanding its lingo and characters, no matter how charming.

It’s also an easy experience — at least, apart from the ending, which crams in a surprisingly intense boss battle compared to what you’ve faced up until that point. As a last hurrah, it also tosses in a weird space-shooter sequence that doesn’t fit with anything else, all before ending on a mushy, sentimental note.

Conclusion

Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! is fun and endearing, and it advances a game long lost to thoughtless rereleases and troubled mechanics. But it doesn’t quite know how to solve all of Zelda II’s problems, and where it succeeds, it also struggles. A smaller-than-expected world map and a rushed ending hint that WayForward wanted to do more but didn’t know how — or couldn’t.

Score: 70/100

Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!! released for the Nintendo 3DS and DS on Nov. 20. The publisher provided GamesBeat with a 3DS copy for the purpose of this review.

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